Pitch Stories an Editor Will Publish

 - May 11, 2016, 8:00 AM
Charles Alcock (center), Editor-in-Chief, AIN Publications
Charles Alcock (center) moderates a panel at EBACE 2015.

Interview with Charles Alcock, Editor-in-Chief, AIN Publications

Alcock, who came to AIN Publications in 1990 and for years directed its European bureau and international editions, now oversees all of its editorial products. We spoke with him recently about a variety of subjects, including how companies can best work with AIN’s editors.

PR people pitch stories to you every day. What sorts of pitches make you think, “We’ve got to cover this”?
The number-one criterion is whether the story will offer useful information for our readers.

When don’t pitches work?
The most common reason is that a story would be self-serving for the company and would offer little useful information for readers. Another reason pitches fall flat is that they’re untimely. We start preparing show editions and major stories for the monthly about eight weeks before publication. Your odds of getting coverage are infinitely better if you contact us around that time.

What about online coverage?
There, deadlines are much shorter. You just need to contact us as early as you can. Good PR people commonly contact us about a week ahead of a major announcement. We can collect embargoed information and do interviews so that on the day of an announcement we’re ready to publish a comprehensive report.

What else can PR people do to make your life easier?
We appreciate it when they see our relationship as a long-term one and aren’t looking just for immediate coverage. And we tend to have a better relationship with PR people when there’s an understanding that while our coverage may ultimately be good for them it has to also further our ultimate goal, which is serving our readers.

Can you discuss the importance of AIN’s wall between advertising and editorial?
Our subscribers need to have absolute faith that the information we’re presenting has not been colored or prioritized because of any commitment to advertisers. That’s supremely important to our advertisers, too. The most effective way for them to get the attention of readers is to be in a publication that has the respect of subscribers and that doesn’t leave them feeling they’re being offered whatever suits the advertiser.

Do you think AIN’s advertisers understand that?
Most do, and so do the more sophisticated PR people. I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when companies say, “Hey, I’m advertising; now it’s time to have my ‘free editorial.’” I always have to politely explain that that isn’t how we work. I am not saying we disregard companies that advertise; they invariably do have useful information to share. But when we cover something, it’s because it’s of value to readers, not because a company advertises.

How do you see the future of print?
It’s bright, I believe. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the continued demand for print publications by both readers and advertisers. Like most media companies, we spent years pondering whether we needed some Plan B to save us from dependence on print. But we eventually realized that whatever print’s future, it won’t change our core mission: to deliver invaluable information to readers. We’ll continue doing that in whatever medium or mediums our audience prefers.